Wednesday, October 30, 2013

the phenomenology of digital life part 359

"The idea of free time has been losing its meaning in the Internet era. We end up idling with the same computers we once used to be productive and make money, and the convergence has made it increasingly difficult to be genuinely non-productive....   the average daily person spent 100 minutes relaxing online, about a third of the five hours of free time most people have.... As our leisure time becomes less physically social, it becomes more focused on seeking and discovering, driven by an ironic sense of absence.....  The feeling of being enmeshed in an aura of perpetually unfulfilled possibility emanating from one’s laptop screen is quickly becoming one of the hallmarks of our time and place, chasing after random story threads and trivial curiosities that wipe one’s memory clean for a few minutes or hours. 
"Watching television and reading a few magazines a month were certainly commodified forms of leisure, but the Internet has multiplied these forms, turned them interactive, and charged them with an increasing pace that is both impossible to fully absorb, and yet painful to step away from for fear of missing out on something that cannot be genuinely experienced in retrospect...

"An increasingly large percentage of the content in these channels is an abstract form of productivity that has wormed its way into our leisure... These points of overlap where work and relaxation seem to become dopplegangers are not just signs of an increasing leisure culture, but affects of a society that has made work so pervasive it sometimes feels impossible to tell when one is and isn’t working. Even when we’re not working our brains are looking for ways that we could be, in which light the Internet is what we have built for ourselves to drain that need."

Thomsen concedes that in the analogue era there was arguably just as much frittering away of time through purposeless idling (gawping at shit TV, daydreaming, doodling, puzzles, etc). But I think it was a different kind of vacancy, precisely because less purposive - pseudo-purposive, quasi-productive -- than the searching/liking/interacting/commenting/cut+pasting modes of web life.  A form of idling and squandering of time that was more conducive to creativity, in so far as in those voids, ideas would generate.  At very least it was genuinely relaxing, real down time.

See also: Mark Fisher's essay on time wars  and  that "strange kind of existential state, in which exhaustion bleeds into insomniac overstimulation (no matter how tired we are, there is still time for one more click) and enjoyment and anxiety co-exist (the urge to check emails, for instance, is both something we must do for work and a libidinal compulsion, a psychoanalytic drive that is never satisfied no matter how many messages we receive). The fact that the smart phone makes cyberspace available practically anywhere at anytime means that boredom (or at least the old style, ‘Fordist’ boredom) has effectively been eliminated from social life. Yet boredom, like death, posed existential challenges that are far more easily deferred in the always-on cyberspatial environment. Ultimately, communicative capitalism does not vanquish boredom so much as it “sublates” it, seeming to destroy it only to preserve it in a new synthesis.... We are bored even as we are fascinated, and the limitless distraction allows us to evade confronting death – even as death is closing in on us."

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